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(NAPSI)—In the 2016−17 school year, colleges and universities are expected to award more than a million bachelor’s degrees alone.1 Under these graduates’ seemingly identical caps and gowns are men and women with incredibly different stories, struggles and accomplishments—many don’t fit the “traditional” mold of a college graduate. For example, some of these students have full-time jobs or families to care for and some already have decades of work experience under their belts.
Adult learners account for a substantial portion of students in higher ed; the Department of Education found that in 2016, students over 24 years old accounted for nearly two-fifths of postsecondary enrollment.2
“I’ve seen firsthand the drive of working adults to return to college and the challenges they face juggling their lives and their education,” said Timothy P. Slottow, president, University of Phoenix. “The unique needs of these students matter. As a parent or full-time employee, you require flexibility and structure. As a professional, you require a career-relevant program, aligned to skills and competencies in your field. As an ambitious individual, you deserve committed faculty members with experience in their fields.”
There are a few simple steps working adults considering a return to school can take to help get the most out of the experience. Slottow offers the following advice:
1. Put your support system in place. As a working adult returning to school, remember, you are not alone. Think about who you lean on for support—significant others, children, employers, etc. Make sure your support system knows your goals and that they are committed to encouraging you along the way.
2. Do your homework before starting school. Speak to academic counselors to determine which programs best fit your goals. Talk with a financial adviser to plan for the costs of your education. You may find it easier to attend schools with access to counselors who can keep you motivated and on track. Look for an institution with resources and networks that align with your goals.
3. Leverage your personal experiences. Every college and university will view your work and educational histories differently. Consider schools that offer credit for prior learning and work experience. If you have a military background, ask about credit for your military experience.
4. Set a plan. You can work full-time AND be a full-time student. Schools with flexible but structured scheduling can allow you to attend school full-time while managing other responsibilities. Some programs may offer classes entirely online, while some will expect you to be at a campus once or more a week. Before you enroll, know what you are committing to. Utilize the flexibility of programs—night classes, online learning—to ensure that your life outside school also remains a priority.
“Choosing to begin—or complete—your higher education journey as a working adult is a complicated decision,” said Slottow. “The importance of providing access and opportunity to working adults who aspire to continue their education cannot be overstated. That is why students must learn what options exist, and institutions must provide the flexibility, structure and career-relevant programs that working adult students need to succeed.”
Just as numerous students will take the final step in accomplishing their goal of graduating college this school year, many more will make the first step in pursuing that goal. To learn more about higher education options for working adults and to get more information about how University of Phoenix works to address their needs, visit www.phoenix.edu.
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